But after many months of fruitful toil (in a new pastorate), his peaceful life was disturbed by the coming of our national troubles. Dark shadows soon became darker realities. This sovereign Commonwealth was required to aid in beating down into degradation, and whipping back into servility, her free sisters of the further South, or join with them in their just independence, and throw her generous breast before them to receive the first blow of the tyrant's rod, and bear the brunt of his wrath. She obeyed her heart, exercised her right, and stood in the breach. In the battle of Bull Run he lost his gallant cousin, Major Carter H. Harrison. Three days later, at Manassas, his native soil was wet again by the blood of the only nephews of his mother, the only sons of their mother, Holmes and Tucker Conrad, and by the blood of his own pure and beautiful brother, Lieutenant Peyton Randolph Harrison. These four young men were all faithful servants of God. Their lives were lovely and useful. In His fear they fought. They were sustained by His grace when they fell. The Conrads were shot at the same moment, and falling side by side, lay, as in the sleep of childhood, almost in each other's arms. The younger of them was a student of theology, and was nearly ready, with glowing heart, to enter on the higher service of his Lord, in the ministry of the Gospel. The noble deaths of these young men stirred the soul of Dabney Harrison to its lowest depths. From the beginning of the war he had longed to share the hardships and dangers of his compatriots. Nothing but his sacred office held him back for a moment. But now he hesitated no longer. His mind was made up. “I must take my brother's place,” he calmly said, and nothing could turn him from that resolve. He left “the quiet and still air of delightful studies,” left his loving people and sweet little home in Hanover, and, having raised a company by great personal exertions, entered the service. Even then he would not have taken up the sword if he had been compelled to lay down the Bible; he would not have become a captain, if he could not have remained a minister. He entered the army believing that his usefulness, even as a preacher of God's word, would be increased in that new and hazardous field.
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